cover image If You Liked School, You'll Love Work

If You Liked School, You'll Love Work

Irvine Welsh, . . Norton, $14.95 (391pp) ISBN 978-0-393-33077-9

The author of Trainspotting gives a master class in gallows humor in his first story collection since The Acid House (1995). Three of the five stories take place in the U.S., and Welsh relishes punishing ugly Americans. In “Rattlesnakes,” a trio of vapid hedonists lost in the desert are forced to perform sexually degrading acts by an unhinged illegal immigrant, while “The DOGS of Lincoln Park” finds a bitchy Chicago princess throwing a hissy fit over her missing papillon, Toto, who she fears has landed in her Korean neighbor's crock pot. Page-turners both, but the characters are too easily satirized. More likable is the narrator of “Miss Arizona,” an aspiring auteur whose interviews with his filmmaker hero's ex-wife turn increasingly creepy. Welsh shines in the title story, about an ex-pat skirt-chasing bar owner in the Canary Islands, and the novella, “The Kingdom of Fife,” set in a glum Scotland town. Narrative duties in the last are shared by “wee” Jason King, a former jockey and current compulsive masturbator and table football champion, and Jenni Cahill, a horse jumper and local gangster's daughter. That a story featuring a gruesome decapitation, dogfighting, equine death and rampant wanking can produce such an amiable effect is testament to Welsh's delightful degeneracy. (Sept.)